Ten killed in spike in east Ukraine vi­o­lence

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Fierce clashes in east Ukraine killed at least 10 peo­ple in the past 24 hours, gov­ern­ment and rebel of­fi­cials said Mon­day, as Rus­sia warned that Kiev could be pre­par­ing for a fresh of­fen­sive.

The sin­gle day death toll is the high­est in over a month as both sides ac­cuse each other of gear­ing up for an on­slaught that would fin­ish off an al­ready-tat­tered Fe­bru­ary truce.

Rus­sia’s For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov al­leged that Ukraine’s forces were in­ten­si­fy­ing their ac­tiv­i­ties in Shy­rokine, a flash­point vil­lage 10 kilo­me­ters from the gov­ern­ment-held port of Mar­i­upol.

“We are con­cerned by the course of events in re­cent days which very strongly re­sem­bles the prepa­ra­tion for more mil­i­tary ac­tion,” Lavrov said.

Ukraine and the West ac­cuse Rus­sia of pour­ing troops and weapons across the bor­der to fuel a con­flict that has claimed more than 6,800 lives since April 2014 and has driven at least 1.4 mil­lion peo­ple from their homes.

Rus­sia de­nies any links to the pro-Moscow in­sur­gents and of­fi­cially pro­vides them only with po­lit­i­cal back­ing at ne­go­ti­a­tions and U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil fo­rums.

On the ground, Ukrainian of­fi­cials re­ported the death of two sol­diers and three civil­ians, while a rebel com­man­der said five civil­ians were killed across the con­flict zone in the latest surge in vi­o­lence.

Volodymyr Kolesnyk, a spokesman for the lo­cal health depart­ment, told AFP that two civil­ians were killed in overnight shelling in Sar­tana vil­lage some two kilo­me­ters north­east of Mar­i­upol.

He said one man was killed and six more civil­ians were wounded in a Kiev-con­trolled vil­lage close to the rebels’ de facto cap­i­tal Donetsk.

Mean­while pro-Moscow sep­a­ratist of­fi­cials re­ported the deaths of five civil­ians in overnight bom­bard­ments, three of them in the city of Donetsk.

Kiev’s pro-Western forces in re­cent days have been fight­ing the rebels for con­trol of a strate­gic high­way link­ing Donetsk with Mar­i­upol — the last ma­jor gov­ern­ment-held city in the re­gion.

Most of the road is cur­rently con­trolled by pro-Kiev units. Its cap­ture would al­low the sep­a­ratist mil­i­tants to step up their stop­start cam­paign to cap­ture Mar­i­upol — a port city of nearly half a mil­lion on the western edge of the loosely de­fined demil­i­ta­rized zone.

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